As a recent TV advertising campaign is keen to remind us, today’s family units come in all shapes and sizes. The Mum, Dad and 2.4 children model still exists, but there are also a growing number of single parents, same-sex couples, grandparents looking after children, and numerous variations on these themes.
Regardless of how a household is made up, however, one pattern that remains constant is that there are fewer of us than ever who can afford to be stay-at-home parents. Childcare is something that most have to look into, whether it relates to a new baby or a clutch of lumbering teenagers.
How much do you need?
Deciding what works best for you depends on a number of factors, but the most significant is how many hours you will need. For example, if there are two working parents, the ideal solution is if one works in a sector where flexible hours are an option. Healthcare roles like the ones on this website are a perfect example. If you only need childcare during “handover hours, for example if one parent leaves for work at 4PM and the other is back by 6PM, it’s a very different proposition to needing eight hours of childcare per day.
Clearly, if you can explore flexible working hours, that can be an ideal solution. Just be careful that it is not to the detriment of your family relationship, putting you in a situation where you and your partner become ships that pass in the night.
Get whatever financial help you can
There is government assistance out there for working parents, so make use of it. Read up on the different initiatives such as childcare vouchers, free childcare and tax free childcare. Eligibility depends on the age of your children, along with your family circumstances, and the rules have a tendency to change regularly, so even if you think you know your entitlements, it pays to double check.
Weigh up the options
Unless you can afford to employ your very own Mary Poppins, there are essentially two options when it comes to professional childcare: using a nursery or a professional childminder.
Most nurseries charge between £100 and £120 per week for 25 hours. This is the most popular choice when it comes to childcare, as you know your child is in a safe and regulated environment. It is also a great way for toddlers to develop social skills, and it serves as the perfect preparation for school. The downside is that staff turnover is often high, so you don’t really get to know the carer. Also, you will have to fit around the nursery’s hours of operation.
A registered childminder will usually look after your child in his or her own home. The cost is generally similar to a nursery, and you and your child can build a relationship better as this is an individual, not an organisation. There is typically more scope for flexibility as to hours, too. The downside is that there is not the same structure to activities as there is at a nursery, and in the event that the childminder is sick or on holiday, you will need a backup plan.
Collaboration//Childcare Options For Working Parents